When I saw the photograph of Brooklyn’s The Blam in the press kit that accompanied their self-released debut CD The Blam, I was immediately frightened. From the photo, which features the four members equipped with wife beaters, pony tails and other poor sartorial choices, I judged them – superficially, I admit – as a group of thugs who would play tired rock songs without a spark of originality. So, approaching their eponymously-titled CD, my expectations were low. Upon hearing the inspired guitar pop on the album, though, I was more than pleasantly surprised.
The Blam plays the circuit in New York that rarely crosses paths with the recently hyped art-punk scene, which includes The Rapture and The Liars. Instead, the Blam stick to playing venues that cater more to a slightly older, less hip crowd, such as Arlene Grocery and Luna Lounge.
That just happens to be the same scene that The Strokes emerged from. In that context, it would seem that The Blam stand out as being a tight-knit four piece playing equally tight and concise pop songs that are often jangly but aren’t afraid to rock.
The album begins with “You’re Making my Head Spin,” which sounds like a happier version of the Strokes if they had replaced their affected apathy with genuine enthusiasm and their Velvet Underground records with Beatles ones. In fact, Jerry Adler, the chief songwriter and lead vocalist for The Blam, claims the Fab Four are his biggest influence. Throughout the album, that influence is apparent in the band’s melodic pop songs with strong hooks that all clock in in under four minutes. Some tracks feature the welcome addition of both samples and synthesizers, nicely setting the band apart from their contemporaries.
But what stands out the most about The Blam is Adler’s sincere vocals, which seem to contain a familiarity that continues on a long line of great American indie bands, from the Dbs and The Dream Syndicate to Yo La Tengo and Pavement. His lyrical abilities are also proficient, best evidenced in the nearly-sublime “Various Disgraces,” which features Peter Holsapple-esque humor: “Before you put your feet up on that couch/remember who you are.” “Goat and Carrot (We Would Get Along)” offers another impressive vocal and lyrical performance, featuring what seems to be a list of amusing observations about a woman, delivered in a slight Southern twang.
If the album went on any longer than its 38 minutes, the songs would become tiresome. As it stands, it is the perfect length for the type of innocuous, radio-friendly music The Blam plays: handily-crafted pop songs, presented without pretension and with an undeniable earnestness. If the band continues in the same vein, it is not inconceivable that they could become the band that reintroduces smart guitar rock into the pop charts. And, with a proper makeover, I can even imagine The Blam on MTV.